Menopause is a biological process that occurs in individuals with ovaries, marking the end of their reproductive years. It typically involves a decline in hormone production, leading to physical and psychological changes. We hear a lot about Hormone Replacement Therapy, (HRT) for treating menopause symptoms but it is important to remember there is a lot of other lifestyle changes we can do for ourselves - diet being the most important one. While the changes in menopause are unavoidable, proper nutrition can play a crucial role in managing menopausal symptoms and promoting overall well-being.
If you have access to myTamarin support through your employer book in a 1-1 session with a menopause expert who can talk to you about the symptoms you are experiencing and come up with the best solution for you.
Many people find they may put on weight during menopause, or struggle with fragile, brittle bones, (Osteoporosis). Both conditions can be helped by good nutrition and it is a way we can take back control of a time in our lives which can often feel uncontrollable. When planning dietary changes to benefit menopause it is important to include all major food groups as well as focus on those that will help relieve symptoms. Menopause occurs because of a depletion of Oestrogen. As Oestrogen levels drop, metabolism slows down, muscle mass reduces and this can lead to weight gain and may impact, negatively on cholesterol levels.
What food groups should I be eating to help menopause symptoms?
Nutritionists believe one of the most important nutrients to maintain at high levels is protein. Protein is an organic compound made up of amino acids and is necessary for making and repairing all body cells and tissue, including muscle, skin, vital organs, hair, nails, etc.
Protein can be found in dairy products, (milk, cheese, butter, etc) meat and fish, eggs, as well as plant-based products like quinoa; pulses; tofu; nuts and seeds; buckwheat; oats. These foods contain vital vitamins and minerals, as well including calcium, potassium, phosphorus, vitamin D and K all of which, are essential for healthy bones.
Fats are another essential component of a healthy diet. Fat gets a bad press and some fats are more likely to contribute to raised cholesterol. However, HEALTHY fats are important for brain function and, research indicates they can help with vasomotor symptoms like hot flashes and night sweats. Healthy fats include Omega-3 fatty acids which can be found in some oily fish like Mackerel, Salmon and Anchovies, and seeds like Flax, Chia and Hemp.
Fibre is vital and most people, menopausal or otherwise, do not eat enough to maintain a healthy, functioning gut. Fibre can be found in fruit and vegetables, and wholegrain products like brown rice, brown bread, whole-wheat pasta, quinoa, etc. As well as “keeping you regular” increasing fibre is known to aid in maintaining a healthy cardiovascular system and lowering the risk of Type 2 Diabetes.
Carbohydrates are another much-maligned group but, like with fats, it is about choosing the RIGHT carbs. Limit fast-release, processed carbs like white pasta, white bread, chips, etc and replace them with slow-release, complex carbs like whole-wheat bread and pasta, grains; vegetables and oats.
What about plant-based Oestrogens?
The jury is still out about plant-based Oestrogens known as Phytoestrogens. Some believe they can replace natural Oestrogen whereas other studies contradict this indicating no added benefit apropos Oestrogen replacement. However, foods rich in phytoestrogens include soya, seeds, etc all of which contribute to a healthy diet overall so adding them to your diet will help either way.
Don't forget to hydrate
As part of a healthy diet increasing fluid consumption, preferably water, is essential to help transport the food through the digestive system and to maintain healthy organs. The human body is 70% water and a lack of water/fluid leads to dehydration and, ultimately, organ damage and failure. Menopausal women may experience increased sweating, hot flashes, and night sweats, which can contribute to dehydration. Staying properly hydrated helps regulate body temperature, supports digestion, promotes skin health, and aids in maintaining optimal cognitive function. You should be aiming to drink at least 1.5 - 2 litres of water per day.
What food should I avoid during menopause?
Foods to avoid in menopause include refined sugars and processed foods. High-sugar foods can exacerbate some symptoms like hot flashes by rapidly raising blood sugar levels. Foods to avoid include sugary cakes and biscuits, sweets, white bread, pasta, etc.
Avoid caffeine-based products like coffee, tea and colas, as these will irritate hot flushes and night sweats and may contribute to heart palpitations. Reducing alcohol intake will help with these symptoms as well as lowering the risk of developing some cancers including breast cancer.
Spicy foods have been linked to flushes and raised anxiety levels and high salt intake has been associated with lower bone density and raised blood pressure.
A healthy diet is beneficial for reducing menopause symptoms as well as life longevity. It can help reduce the risk of many forms of cancer, heart disease, stroke, type 2 Diabetes, amongst others. You do not have to cut OUT all the fun stuff just reduce them and increase the healthier stuff thereby helping to reduce the troublesome symptoms and improve quality of life and health outcomes overall.
If you have access to myTamarin menopause experts through your employer, book a call or speak to them directly via the app to take control of your symptoms and navigate the challenges that arise from menopause.
In the next article in our Menopause and Chronic Conditions series, Moira looks into arthritis and menopause.Read post
In the next article in our Menopause and Chronic Conditions series, Moira looks into cancer and menopause.Read post